Breast cancer patient

Imaging techniques can improve diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and avoid unnecessary surgery

Date: 07 February 2018

For people with suspected pancreatic cancer, the addition of a specialist scan provides more accurate diagnosis and can better determine the stage of cancer, avoiding unnecessary surgery, finds research funded and published by NIHR.

The PET-PANC trial is the first of its kind to examine diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with PET-CT (positron emission tomography-computed tomography) and its findings have informed the latest NICE Guideline on the diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer.

There are more than 9,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed each year in the UK1. Surgery to remove the cancer is the only potential cure, however this is not possible if, as in the large majority of cases, the cancer has already spread at the time of diagnosis or is inoperable. Therefore, it is vital that the stage of the disease is accurately determined, so patients are not subjected to surgery that will not benefit them.

Researchers, led by a team at the University of Liverpool, recruited 550-patients from 18 centres across the UK with suspected pancreatic cancer who underwent a standard diagnostic workup, including multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) and a multidisciplinary team workup. Eligible patients underwent informed consent and a PET-CT within two weeks.

Chief Investigator Dr Paula Ghaneh, of the Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, said: "Using PET-CT corrected the staging in patients with pancreatic cancer, influenced  management in 45% of patients and prevented futile resection in (20%) patients due to have surgery. Our results could have a significant impact on the diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer by improving the staging and management of the disease. Ensuring that patients are not subjected to unnecessary surgery and giving them earlier access to chemotherapy.”

The team found that in a patient with a positive CT scan, a positive PET-CT increased the odds of having pancreatic cancer by 55% and a negative PET-CT decreased the odds of having pancreatic cancer by 95%. In a patient with a negative CT, a positive PET-CT increased the odds of having pancreatic cancer by 538% and a negative PET-CT decreased the odds by 46%.

PET-CT corrected staging in 14% of patients, with the majority of these being tumours that were upstaged to either a stage 2B or a stage 4. The analysis also showed using PET-CT would be cost-effective for the NHS.

The full results have published in Health Technology Assessment within the NIHR Journals Library.

  • Summary:
    For people with suspected pancreatic cancer, the addition of a specialist scan provides more accurate diagnosis and can better determine the stage of cancer, avoiding unnecessary surgery, finds research funded and published by NIHR.
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    Research
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  • Year of publication:
    2018
  • Specialty:
    Cancer
  • News filter:
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    • Research and Impact


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